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In case you were one of those lads that Elon Musk sent into space or have been reading a really interesting book for the past six months, you might not be aware that there’s been a rather large pandemic sweeping the globe. Coronavirus has thrown a spanner in the collective works of our entire planet, with most industries grinding to an utter halt for most of 2020. But now, misguided as it may be, we are getting a new “normal”, with most businesses beginning to readjust and reopen – with cinemas being among them. And welcoming us back to the big screens is… Tenet.
Christopher Nolan’s Tenet is being marketed as the film that will “save” cinemas, with people being encouraged to see it to support their local screens – like “Eat Out to Help Out”, but with worse food and the same prices. Phrases such as “see it on the biggest screen you can” are peppered throughout the trailers and reviews, as a not-so-subtle way to bait you out of the safety of your home. But looking past the opaque hints of plot and the tremendous action set-pieces promised by the film, Tenet doesn’t seem all that impressive.
In my eyes, Christopher Nolan’s filmography is what you’d expect of someone whose sense of self-importance has been boosted by a decade of being compared to greats such as Hitchcock or Scorsese, despite Nolan having nowhere near the bona fides of those filmmakers. Maybe bombastic spectacle and dense plots are enough for some people, but I for one am not convinced – and certainly not convinced enough to subject myself to several hours in front of a cinema screen, surrounded by any number of people who could unwittingly be carrying a deadly virus.
I don’t want to single out Tenet, since there are other films returning to theatrical releases – although many of them have taken the wrong meaning of “theatrical”. Russell Crowe’s Unhinged, words presumably uttered by many psychiatrists, is drawing in patrons by claiming that they are “brave” by going out to see it. But why is it that the onus is on us? Why are we the ones who have to sit in confined cinema screens (which, let’s face it, weren’t exactly beacons of sanitation before the pandemic) in order to save our cinemas? With the plethora of streaming platforms we have, there are hundreds of films that haven’t gone anywhere – and I hear some of them might even be quite good. And so, rewinding to Tenet, appropriately, what exactly does the film offer that all these alternatives don’t? What is worth taking the gamble of COVID-19? This is entirely subjective, of course, but I for one don’t want to die for Chris Nolan’s ego.
I think my conviction about avoiding cinemas is largely built on apathy. Tenet doesn’t look particularly interesting beneath the surface, and its timing of release on a schedule decimated by a plague doesn’t exactly elevate it. Even if my Tenet ticket would keep the Dukes – a cinema I unconditionally love and desperately want to survive this – from shutting down, it shouldn’t be my job to do so. Depending on arts and culture venues but not supporting them is the equivalent of sending “Thoughts and Prayers” in the wake of a humanitarian crisis: all words, no action. Considering the estimated $100 million Warner Bros. spent on marketing alone for Tenet, the idea that consumers are the ones that have to bail out cinemas – rather than the multi-billion companies that depend on their continued business – seems a little bit strange.